Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Approaching Part IV, Approaching Reading

I've finished part III of AZI, and frankly that is the bulk of the project. Definitely the most important part of the project. Especially once I reckoned with how personal the project was, and that was back in December and early January.

So I have officially decided to collapse parts IV and V into a single part. Part V will be part IV.3 perhaps or something like that. At some point over this next week I hope to revise the outline, figure out exactly what I'll be writing in part IV and stuff.

I'm confused as which direction I want to take my reading in. Today I started a book called Simulation And Its Discontents. A curious book about how simulative technology has changed the sciences. How does it change the way that architects, chemists, and physicists work when they suddenly can simulate building plans, chemical reactions, or physical particles in computer programs? It is primarily a study on MIT and the way that these new technologies affected the relationships between students and professors and the work they did. I dunno.

The thing I'm finding most curious, both as an immediate fact of the study of MIT and something with larger implications, is the relationship between the representation of reality and our perception of reality: that modeling and simulating reality somehow makes it feel 'more real' to those chemists and physicists dealing with these simulations of reality. How can this be? How is it that simulations of reality, which don't capture everything about it, make it feel more real, more apprehensible? Why would creating a fictional representation of reality make it seem more real?

It makes me wonder about Chris Frith and his work in Making Up The Mind, it makes me wonder about Foucault and John Searle, about Oscar Wilde, and the way that all of them address this issue of the relationship between representation and real life experience. In Frith's book he has a section called "Perception is a fiction that coincides with reality." What we perceive is not reality, but our brain's representation or model of reality.

So what if we go to pains to make our model highly articulate, well defined, theorized? Would our model of reality then conform to those standards of reality that we have managed to articulate? Does simulative technology, or simulation and representation more broadly, make miniature status function declarations in our mind and make us perceive reality in certain ways? That last sentence, not well said. I don't know how precisely to say this.

When we represent reality in certain ways, whether to ourselves or to others, do we make ourselves more likely to perceive reality in those ways? And is that why simulation would make us feel closer to reality? Because it is making a neater, more articulable reality, that lines up with our desire to accurately model reality?

Reminds me of Zen ideas about abandoning preformed ideas so as to see reality more clearly. Because when I read that a simulation could make the world feel realer for people, it makes me wonder how far they are getting from reality, or if they are getting closer.

These ideas are hard for me to talk about right now, but I think them very important.

Hacking, Foucault, Suzuki, Wilde, Searle, Frith, Collingwood I dunno who else. There are all these thinkers concerned with the relationship between the representation of reality and our perception of reality. I need to parse them carefully.

Sorry for the digression.

The issue is that I'm torn between the reading I want to do for Part IV, which should be on art and politics, and the reading I really feel like I want to pursue, which is on the issues of history, the humanities, simulation, representation, and synthetic experience. I feel inclined to read essays on art and politics while preparing to tackle monographs on the other issues.

What fun.

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